TV is Dead

Television is dead. The disc is dead. Broadcasting…dead. Cable? Satellite? Blu-ray? Everything you grew up with in terms of mass multimedia is dead; it just doesn’t know it yet. Ten years ago, mass media meant multimillion-dollar corporations and networks. Granted, there were small advances in distribution in the decade, like DVD-Video and Blu-ray, but these were merely incremental changes; you still needed to transport a physical copy of your media to a compatible player. Today, anyone with a little spare time and a computer can make a movie that can reach an audience somewhere north of a billion people. That’s more than any network can hit. That’s more people than James Cameron could even dream of a decade ago. So a billion viewers is incredibly unlikely to happen without a surprised kitten, a groinshot and a babe or, preferably, all three at the same time, but the potential is there. And that potential reveals, with some clarity, the Future of Video.

The End of Standards

The first technical transformation that we’ve already seen is that the Dark Art of television broadcast standards, NTSC, ATSC, DLT to glass masters and other voodoo specs are history. Today, as we move forward through 2010, it’s all irrelevant. Physical distribution and the Age of Standards are dead. Sure, we still have some constraints, but think about it: you can upload your movie at 640×480 or 1080p or in a long narrow strip 1,000 pixels wide by 300 pixels tall if you want. The best format for your production today…is the one that you chose.

Jetpacks, Flying Cars and 3D

One thing that this author predicts will not be big in the next decade is 3D. Like jetpacks and flying cars, 3D has always been a fanciful future fad that has never taken off. The primary reason that is that 3D is a gimmick. Why do we obsess over clarity, resolution and color and then ruin those three characteristics with 3D? Yeah, 3D is fun (I sure like it), but it doesn’t look as good as 2D. And didn’t we all just buy new thousand-dollar digital televisions last year? Didn’t the TV we grew up with cost $300 and last 20 years? So do I really need a new TV already? Hum.

Cinematic Aspects

The history of camera technology, for example, reveals a direct and unmistakable future: SD to HD to 4K; smaller sensors to larger ones; film to tape to Flash memory; expensive to, well, less expensive; 4:3 to 16:9 to…cinematic aspect ratios. Look for digital anamorphic processes on 1920×1080 pixel image sensors and anamorphic glass in the immediate future. If you think 16:9 widescreen is cool, imagine true Academy Aspect camcorders, first at the professional level and then for us consumers. The marketeers convinced us that we needed 24p, they’ve made Depth of Field mandatory for True Artists and there’s no reason to think that they won’t convince us we need real movie screen aspect gear. Plus, this will give manufacturers an opportunity to sell us new television sets, which will drive the technology forward, whether consumers demand it or not.


Cameras

It’s impossible to talk about distribution without at least mentioning production. At the high end, we’ll see better cameras, of course, and a likely merger of DSLR 35mm-sized imaging chips with proper video cameras with standardized lens mounts. Prices will start at $10k, but entry-level professional models will rapidly be introduced under $3,000. Of course, the most radical shift in production is at the other end of the price spectrum. While GooTube is chockfull of crappy, poorly-lit, handheld consumer videos, literally a million a day, it doesn’t have to be that way. Today, for less than $200, you can get a camera that can, potentially, outshoot what we might have considered “broadcast-quality” video a decade ago. Now, given that broadcast quality was always a marketing catchphrase that no one ever defined, that’s a pretty easy claim to make, but I think the key here is “potentially.” Give me some lights, a tripod, a $200 camera, a little talent and a whole lotta hard work, and I’ll give you a television show that is better than at least half of the programs that are running on cable right this moment. Seriously. This is the biggest revolution of the next decade.

Editing

In terms of editing, I see one clear trend, and that is an expansion of the role of the editor from that of the gal that cuts a movie together (no small artistic task, it should be noted) into a number of highly-specialized tasks that includes color grading, compositing and motion graphics. Of course, we’ve already seen this shift on-screen, but I think “editing” software will also follow suit. After Effects (or an app like it) is the future, and the more traditional editing-only apps like Final Cut Pro are on their way out. Will Adobe make After Effects more linearly friendly? Will Apple extend its software into the motion graphics realm more comprehensively? Will Avid (which still rules the roost in Hollywood) return to dominance as the platform of choice across the board? Who knows? I do know that if you don’t know motion graphics today, the kids will call you “grandpa” in 2020.

Distribution

While I provocatively opened this piece announcing the Death of Distribution as we know it, the sober truth is that the internet has already killed television and Blu-ray. Why would you want to wait until Tuesday night at 8pm to watch your favorite show, when you can watch it anytime after the release date? Why would you even bother to DVR a local copy of a show if you could just access it anytime you want from Hulu? And, since it is clear from services like Hulu and Netflix (and bittorrent) that there are zero technological barriers to simple, comprehensive video on demand, then the only reason why we don’t have simple, comprehensive video on demand today is… money.

Personally, I can’t wait until the traditional distribution business is killed off by the internet. The current TV distribution model is a dinosaur. Instead of paying for 287 channels you never watch, we’ll be able to watch what we want to watch, when we want to watch it. How much will it cost consumers? The movie-rental kiosks of redbox answer that question: $1 a movie or show. Traditional television networks, studios and cable/satellite distributors should really be in a panic over this and realize that we, the audience, want to pay for quality content and don’t mind advertisers, but when we can get better service for less money on the internet, well, we will.

Instead, I predict “the Industry” will continue to offer 287 cable channels we’ll never watch for $100 a month, and the media will be locked up with increasingly draconian DRM (digital rights management) schemes that make movies more and more difficult to play on – well – whatever device you bought last year. None of it will be compatible, it’ll get more and more frustrating to watch what you want and it’ll get more and more expensive. Of course, you will always be able to pirate a very standardized, universally-compatible version of that media you want. For free. As long as pirated content is better than what you can pay for, people will continue to pirate content. I’m not suggesting you should do this but, it has to be admitted that even if you wanted to give Sony a buck for the movie you want to watch, Sony won’t take your money anyway. This is not a winning business model.


Conclusion

The more things change, the more the fundamentals remain the same and, whether the old network dinosaurs figure it out or not, the people definitely get it. So the upside to all of this is, overall, we are living in a Golden Age, where talented producers and professionals will produce more and better content than we’ve ever seen before. Sure, there will still be a lot of crap, but, as Gene Roddenberry once remarked, “90% of everything is crap.” Cinematographers and lighting designers will continue to paint with light and evoke immersive audio atmospheres. And we humans will continue doing what we have done for many, many generations, with and without 7.1 3D HD Cinemascope DSLR cameras: we will tell stories. Don’t let technology get in the way of your story. Bottom line – whatever piece of gear you choose to use to tell that story, whether it’s the newest techno contraption ever or whether you’ve held onto your old S-VHS camcorder for decades, if you know how to tell a story with video, the tools just embellish the rose.

D. Eric Franks is an award-winning producer, technology writer and teacher living in central Florida.

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39 COMMENTS

  1. I personally believe that the tv itself might die the tv industry will not the networks will eventually bring their content online and to phones in the future. There is a demand for content, but in a mobile outlet with apps like hbo go.

        • That is true, but let’s not forget the population that stays home all day, like senior citizens maybe bedridden or in a wheelchair sometimes refuse to learn about internet and new technologies although they tend to learn email messaging to receive pictures of their grandkids. Sometimes they have nobody to teach them anything so they settle for the free antenna. Also let’s not forget the cybersecurity part and how the world is now with rocky relationships between countries, if all satellites stop working there will be an internet blackout making us use a TV set to be informed or even a radio. I don’t know if TV is dead or alive but people that don’t have access to new technology need the free TV.

  2. It is hard for me to believe that TV’S won’t be around anymore because so many people in the world love to watch TV. Me myself I’m a big sports fan and I like to watch it on the big screen. Yes internet has became so big for so many years. I don’t think TV is consider dead because people love watching TV.

    • Yes, you are right, many things are already changing the way people view TV. Not only the internet opened more options like IPTV to watch television for entertainment but the Advertising industry has found new ways to force audiences to watch their commercials through the internet itself popping up in different ways paying tech companies and being creative. One example can be “You Tube” after 5 seconds of forcing you to view a commercial once you click “play” on a News clip you want to watch. Sometimes the Ad is interesting and you might end up buying something online and forget all about the News clip, or click “skip Ad” and proceed to watch your clip unless you pay them for not getting Ads.

    • I agree with Niko…I believe that we will always need devices to view a broadcast signal or even stream a live event. I do believe that more technological advances will come in the creation of different types of devices, the speed of sharing or transmitting signals will increase and will become used for many different functions but all in all whatever technology is introduced, in my opinion, will just be a hybrid of the traditional television set.

  3. I believe internet apps like netflix an hulu will soon replace cable tv because people like convenience and when things their way. So if i wanna watch The Flash at 3am, whoever will give me that i will go with.

  4. I disagree that TV is dead or will ever die. I believe that there will be greater technological advances that will create hybrid devices which will continue to broadcast shows and provide entertainment to the general public. The device called the television set, as we know it, may undergo a transformation and become more stylized, multi-functional and multi-faceted but I do not believe that we will ever do away with TV. As a mechanism that helps to facilitate “family time”, “the boys night out” and the delight of other social events, I believe that TV will always have a place in our overall human existence.

  5. I agree with the fact that television is declining because it’s not up to date like the other options or in correspondence with modern technology.

    However, I disagree with the fact that television is “dead”. You are always going to have that group of people who is going to get tired of Hulu, Netflix and others like apps & will want to switch back to cable where they can enjoy broadcasts and live.

    Personally, I think television has a lot of potential to make millions. Networks just have to find a way to draw the attention back to them and step their game up.

  6. I don’t think that TV will be dead in 10 years, it will change and improve such as flat screens and curve TV. TV will loose a lot of its audiences due to mobil devices that can be easily access on the go.
    Most people will want to watch TV or programs when they choose to watch them, instead of having many channels and do not watch half of them.

  7. I don’t think TV will die, at least not anytime soon. I think TV will change a lot and it will evolve but I just don’t think will die or that it’s already dead. Everyday TV is being made or edited and put out into the world for people to see. I just don’t see it disappearing in th near future.

  8. With the increase in streaming services, it is logical to assume that tv will run the risk of dying, but with daily programming still playing a huge role in peoples viewing experieces, its safe to say tv will go down at a slow rate, if any rate at all

  9. I agree with the fact that TV is dead or it will be soon. The way media is produced and distributed is much more efficient than the way TV does. Websites such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Youtube, ETC., have a much better system to obtain and consume media than TV.

  10. I agree with the fact that TV is dead or it will be soon. The way media is produced and distributed is much more efficient than the way TV does. Websites such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Youtube, ETC., have a much better system to obtain and consume media than TV .

  11. I know that TV is now becoming a little obsolete with new online streaming platforms popping up here and there, however I don’t think TV will die out because I believe the industry is vast and it will change and grow just how our knowledge of technology continues to progress.

  12. I do not think tv will die in the near future. However, the amount of people who watch tv will decline by a lot because of subscription services like netflix, hulu, and the new hbo max. The reason i think this is because nowadays people wanna watch shows on their own time and on their smart devices.